Disney World has called Florida home for more than 50 years but the last several months have been a bit tough at home. Walt Disney World is in the middle of a pair of lawsuits between Disney and Florida over recent changes to the special district governing the vacation kingdom. And while Disney World recently scrapped plans that would have seen Disney spend $1 billion on a new campus in Florida for Cast Members, a $17 billion investment in the resort itself is still planned, at least for now.
Two years ago Disney announced plans to move 2,000 Cast Members, including the bulk of Walt Disney Imagineering, from Southern CA to a new campus at Lake Nona in Florida. The initial plan to move was to be completed by the end of this year, and while that deadline was pushed back to 2026 after the battle with Florida started, all indications were that it would happen. Then, earlier this week it was announced that the entire campus would be scrapped.
Speaking at the recent JP Morgan Global Technology, Media & Communications Conference, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro admitted that, “business conditions have changed” in Florida, which was part of the reason the plan was canceled. However, plans to spend $17 billion and hire 13,000 new Cast Members at Walt Disney World over the next decade are still in place.
Of course, CEO Bob Iger intimated on the recent Disney Q2 earnings call that those plans certainly could still change. Iger touted the success of all Disney Parks, and indicated that new plans for growth could be focused anywhere, implying the massive investment could be done elsewhere if Disney decided that made more sense.
Disney is currently suing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claiming that a series of law changes in Florida are the result of the state retaliating against the company for exercising its First Amendment rights. The special district created in Florida in the 1960s to govern Walt Disney World was recently replaced by a new district with a new board, all hand-picked by DeSantis. The state is also countersuing Disney for a deal it made with the previous board that locked down the rights to several thousand acres of Disney World property that gives Disney the rights to develop it.
It will certainly take a pretty substantial change for Disney to significantly reduce investment in Walt Disney World, but such a change seems more possible than at any time since the construction of Magic Kingdom began.
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